I have a family member who is on the verge of passing on and the thought of losing them seems surreal. Currently, as I write this, they have been setup in the living room to live out the rest of their life comfortably as their days are sadly numbered. Even with all this sadness I selfishly sit here wondering, how many more chances do I have to turn them on? How many more nights do we have left to play with one another and dole out spankings? I’m sure you can relate and if not then you really missed out because the Xbox 360 was easily one of the best gaming platforms ever created. Wait, you thought I meant…oh wow…that’s disgusting! Well I’m glad we cleared that up before it was too late but let me explain what I mean and let me explain why I can actually count this piece of technology as family…because I can and because it is.
In 2005 I was still a noob at being married and my wife and I were still accumulating XP but all the while enjoying the time spent as ‘Level 1 Clerics’ (aka the honeymoon stage). Children were not on the horizon because we wanted to spend some of our early years building memories and making the most out of our time just being the two of us. That was until we found out in May of that year that we were going to have a new addition to our family come November. Being a family of gamers (and yes, that’s what we are, gamers) it was midnight on November 22nd when we finally got to meet our not-so-little one. Sure, it cost a fat wad of cash, but it had finally arrived in our arms and it was no longer just the two of us.
Thanks to our newest addition there were many sleepless nights and just like any new stage in life there came big responsibilities. I was a husband and a provider so I was now working a corporate job, wearing a suit to work, and paying into a 401k all while trying to spend as much time with both my beautiful bride and our living room baby. It seems like only yesterday but I remember when the first time that same baby got sick. It showed signs of redness but luckily it went away and we breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the redness returned and we were forced to send it back to where it was birthed so that they could mend it back to health. It’s times like this when you realize that nothing is immune to breaking down and everything has its days numbered.
In 2008 our life was tuned upside-down when we moved from the mid-west to the Big Apple. Everything was new and exciting. My wife and I would go out and get lost in the streets of New York discovering hidden gems and secret levels. At night we would make our way back home and even though we left so many friends and family in Ohio, we always had a companion waiting for us in our small Queens, and later Brooklyn, apartments.
Quickly we learned one of the downsides of living in New York was that everything costs a lot of Rupees (that one is for my Nintendo fanboys out there) so luckily instead of paying $40 for two people to go to the movies every weekend we put that money towards our now growing adolescent. Games too were growing up and giving us a lot more for our money than previous game installments and even most movies. For example, we both lost ourselves in the world of Red Dead Redemption for easily an accumulation of hundreds of hours. John Marston had now become family and will always have a place in our hearts. My wife was so invested in that world that when it was all over she literally shed tears.
After many a playdates, I racked up Gamertags anywhere from people I actually knew to strangers who fought valiantly by my side while clearing out the Covenant and/or the Locust Horde. However, through all of this a real, true friendship was actually forged by this machine that people, who don’t play video games, would call a waste of time and money. I knew my buddy Erik well enough that we were more than acquaintances but had never really bonded over anything…until Halo 3 that is. He in Ohio and I in New York would stay up until 6am playing online, competing for MVP, misreading our opponents’ names incorrectly on purpose just to get them off their game, all while getting to know one another better than we ever had when we lived nearby and ran with the same circles. So much so that when my wife and I moved back to Ohio we actually lived with Erik and his wife as we looked for a new home of our own. All of this might never have happened in this way if it wasn’t for the Xbox 360 at its power of strengthening friendships.
It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine spent over this decade either. In 2011 this family member of a box was there for me when I tragically lost my daughter just weeks before she was supposed to enter this world. I had witnessed and experienced plenty of loss in my life but never anything as hard-hitting and world crashing as this. If you’ve never lost a child, then you’re one of the lucky ones, but if you have you know that it can turn everything you think you know about life, expectations, and hope into darkness and despair. During a time like this, people don’t know what to say to you. Nothing can repair the broke that has been done to your heart. Words can’t express the sorrow one’s soul feels for another. All you want to hear is that you’ll smile and laugh again one day but everyone is too afraid to tell you what only time can show you. It was the Xbox 360 that wasn’t afraid to show me through some of the best story-driven games that loss happens to everyone, that time heals all wounds, and that even though this was my new normal, I wasn’t alone when it came to expectations being dashed.
But in the end, it was happily ever after. In 2013 we finally had a real child of our own who we could hold, hug, and kiss all over. He had no idea how much we treasured and cherished him and he may never know because, like loss, putting love into words never does it justice. He had a big brother in the Xbox 360 who would be the first controller he would have in his hands. It was the first console that showed him what a video game was and even though a newer, stronger version was nearing its way into our home, the Xbox 360 was always going to have a place by our television’s side.
Fast forward to 2016 and Microsoft has recently halted the production of the Xbox 360, bringing an end to over ten years of manufacturing the one eyed little rascal. They’ve obviously made the decision to strictly focus on their newest console, the Xbox One, and mid-cycle there’s even rumors that they’re beefing that one up, rendering the console space uncharted territory (and that one was for my PlayStation fanboys).
It’s a sad state of affairs when consoles may not have longevity like they used to. Not because we won’t get our moneys worth out of it, not because we’re left feeling like we don’t have the latest and greatest earlier in the cycle, not because some of us may get buyers remorse, but because watching developers push the platform harder, further, and more impressive over the course of a decade was absolute magic to witness. Looking at a launch titles and then comparing that to the newest titles shows what happens when creatives are forced to become more creative and pushed to push the boundaries. If we give the industry this out, that hardware will be upgraded every couple of years, I personally believe we’re doing the industry as a whole a disservice and actually slowing down our progress rather than speeding it up. But that’s another debate for another day.
What Microsoft is doing, and being deservedly praised for, is making 360 games backwards compatible on the Xbox One and to take it a step further they’re making it so that all Xboxes in the future will be able to play all games made from here on out meaning that when a new console comes out, your library is still relevant. All of this is great except that it makes the older console useless after their time is up. Why does that deserve an “except”?
Let’s go back to this family member that sits in my living room spending the remainder of its life as comfortable as possible. I’m not ready to let it go to the great Halo in the sky but I know eventually I will have to make the decision on when it’s time to say that there are no more memories to be made together, that our time together has ended, and that I could never thank it enough for getting me through this thing called life…and when it’s time to pull the plug.